Business/Economy

Here's how Alaska's jobs picture is expected to change by 2024

A new decade-long industrial and occupational forecast for Alaska features a job outlook similar to this year's, with continued losses predicted in the oil and gas industry and related sectors, and growth in health care.

Employment in Alaska is expected to grow between 2014 and 2024, though by much less than was predicted before the precipitous drop in oil prices that began in 2014.

The number of jobs in the state during that 10-year period is predicted to grow by 5.8 percent, according to a report released this month by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. A previous report that made predictions for 2012 through 2022 forecast 10 percent growth in employment.

Oil prices topped $100 per barrel in 2014, but on Thursday hovered just above $50 per barrel. That decline has led to economic uncertainty and contributed to a multibillion-dollar state budget deficit in Alaska.

Predictably in that current climate, the oil industry and related sectors are expected to be among the hardest-hit, the new report said. Oil and gas is forecast to lose 10 percent of jobs by 2024.

[Low oil prices are likely leading to Alaska's first annual job loss since 2009]

In heavy and civil construction on oil and gas pipelines and related projects, jobs are expected to drop a staggering 39 percent, the report said. Even if that happens, employment in the sector would still be "slightly above its 25-year average."

Overall, the construction industry is expected to grow just 1.7 percent by 2024.

But such a long-term forecast also comes with a caveat. Paul Martz, an economist with the state's Labor Department, said it's always difficult to predict what's going to happen in 10 years.

"We always have to deal with a lot of uncertainty in Alaska, but this is even more," Martz said. "The oil price is a significant component for the uncertainty, especially because a lot of losses are tied to that, either directly or indirectly."

The health care and tourism industries have been held up as bright spots of Alaska's economy this year, and the Labor Department predicts that will hold true through 2024. Health care and social assistance, along with the leisure and hospitality sector, are expected to grow significantly, by nearly 16 percent and nearly 11 percent, respectively.

Growth in health care is "largely driven by the aging of Alaska's population plus a modest increase in the overall population," the labor report said.

Most job growth between 2014 and 2024 will largely be thanks to 83,000 job openings "created by the need for replacements," the report found, while the state is only expected to produce about 20,000 new jobs during that time.

"What jumps out at me the most is that most jobs are filled because somebody just left," said Neal Fried, another economist with the state's Labor Department. "Someone retired or died or something else. And I think that sort of gets forgotten, even though that's the most common way to find a job."

The occupation with the highest predicted loss in that 10-year period is reporters and correspondents, while that with the highest projected growth is dental hygienists.

Corporate management is another sector forecast to grow significantly, at a whopping 22 percent, or 578 jobs. That's largely because of Alaska Native corporations that, while invested in oil and gas, are also diversified in other sectors so "management of these corporations will likely escape long-run losses," the report said.

It's still difficult, the report said, to predict how many jobs the state's burgeoning marijuana industry might bring.

The Labor Department produces the industrial and occupational forecast every two years.

Sponsored